Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Charge reduced in Mason assault case

Maximum penalty now 18 months if convicted

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — A judge on Tuesday ruled that evidence was too weak to support a felony assault charge against Dennis Rock, a former minor-league baseball pitcher accused of punching his Mason neighbor and causing near-fatal brain damage.

        During the second day of Mr. Rock's trial in Warren County Common Pleas Court, Judge Neal B. Bronson dropped the felony charge and allowed the trial to proceed on an aggravated-assault charge.

        Mr. Rock, who had faced up to eight years in prison, now could get a maximum of 18 months or could be placed on probation if convicted. Testimony is expected to end today, and a jury of eight women and four men could begin deliberations.

        Ohio law says the more serious charge, felonious assault, means causing serious physical harm to another — but self-defense can justify that action. Aggravated assault, a lower-level felony charge Mr. Rock now faces, involves causing serious physical harm “under the influence of sudden passion or extreme emotional distress.”

        Mr. Rock, a 46-year-old father of two who has claimed self-defense, maintains Gary Kretzer threatened him during an argument over parking in their upscale Mason neighborhood June 3.

        Mr. Kretzer, 39, has no memory of the incident and suffered brain damage that could permanently prevent the father of six from working again.

        No prosecution witnesses refuted Mr. Rock's self-defense claim, and several police officers testified that Mr. Rock was so distraught that he sobbed loudly and recited Hail Marys and the Lord's Prayer after trying to revive Mr. Kretzer.

        Mr. Kretzer's relatives and James Beaton, an assistant prosecutor, declined to comment Tuesday on the judge's reduction of the charge.

        Mr. Rock's lawyers say they were pleased with the ruling — but still hope for acquittal, noting any conviction would be devastating for Mr. Rock.

        “It would be a blemish for the rest of his life,”' said Herbert J. Haas, a Cincinnati lawyer working with attorney Hal Arenstein to defend Mr. Rock.


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